Letter to the Editor — Buckingham needs a dual defense against gold mining

Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Dear Editor,

I would like the Buckingham Board of Supervisors (BOS) to consider the financial consequences of a gold mine. If mining contaminates the groundwater of a county in which most residents rely on well water, the BOS must be prepared to accept the loss of current tax revenue (as well as any future growth). Contaminated water will cause a mass exodus by those who can afford to leave. These people represent your most lucrative tax base. Property values, which determine tax revenue, will fall.

Homebuyers looking in beautiful central VA will avoid Buckingham and the county population will decrease, resulting in fewer taxable residents. This is the age of remote workers- my husband and I are two. We bought in Buckingham a year into the pandemic after our jobs went remote. Now more than ever, this county has the potential to increase its tax revenue by attracting residents in the form of remote workers who earn high NOVA salaries. I can count the number of friends/ acquaintances who have expressed an interest in buying in Buckingham based on our experience but were advised to wait until the county enacts ironclad protections against gold mining.

My husband and I have delayed construction on our property until we are assured that the BOS will take all necessary steps to protect our property value and the health of our family. If they do not, we have made the decision to cut our losses, sell our property, and invest our hard-earned money in a county that will protect the property values and health of its residents.

It seems that the BOS and residents agree that a gold mine would be disastrous for the community. The debate now concerns how we can best protect our community from a gold mine. Without decisive action and ironclad legal protections, Buckingham County faces significant threats to water quality, property values, and future tax revenue.

These legal protections must come in the form of a dual legislative approach emphasizing both rights-based protections and zoning restrictions. Buckingham BOS Chairman Miles has expressed that, while he supports a zoning ordinance to limit mining activities, he does not support a rights-based ordinance that will protect county residents from toxic trespass. We appreciate Chairman Miles’ support for a zoning ordinance but recognize that it’s not enough. Zoning law is vulnerable to Special Exceptions and Special Use Permits, both of which are easily and routinely obtained by the everyday man, let alone corporate lawyers. The surest way to protect against gold mining in Buckingham is to enact a rights-based ordinance to reinforce the protections offered by zoning restrictions.

Thank you to County Administrator Karl Carter for his willingness to invite Joe Lerch from the VA Association of Counties and Ben Price from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund to present an analysis of the authority counties have to ban metallic mining and explain the power, security and complementary nature of a rights-based ordinance to an ordinance based on zoning and land use to the Buckingham BOS.

Julia Gibson

Buckingham County